Wild Geese, The (1978)

The Wild Geese (1978), directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.

Mercenaries Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Roger Moore get the old gang back together to rescue an African politician from his captors. After getting in they are betrayed by their employer and have to fight their way out of the country, with heavy losses.

The team are mostly old timers, but this makes them steady and they know what to expect. Money provides some motivation, but there is also a bit of idealism. To most of the men this is just what they do, they're good at it and really don't enjoy anything else as much. The Brits are good at these commando stories.

The first 40 minutes are assembling the team in London, then we have a quick comical training episode getting everyone back into shape. I want to point out an actor I've seen in many British movies and TV programs: Jack Watson, the big tough-looking Regimental Sergeant Major who whips them into shape. He really did that work for the Royal Navy in WW2.

The leaders are cultured, obviously trained in the regular army, but as vicious as they need to be. Their mission involves poison gassing a few hundred troops at the enemy garrison and they show no qualms. When escaping they are pursued by the elite "Simba" troops, guys so nasty that you shoot your own wounded rather than let them be captured. The Simbas are mowed down in their banzai charges but keep coming.

There is some discussion of white and black and the chances of conciliation across racial and colonial divides. It's well intentioned if a bit rushed. It could happen as shown: survival situations can form bonds.

Filmed in South Africa. Burton and Harris agreed to stop drinking while on location. The Joan Armatrading folk song used as the theme seems out of place.

My thumbnails are from the region 1 4:3 letterboxed DVD with commentary track but no subtitles. I see the PAL editions are anamorphic and there is a UK Blu-ray.